“The Role of Labour Standards in Accessing International Markets and Supporting the Caribbean Single Market” – Remarks delivered by Cedric Murrell, President, Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, to an ILO/BEC Workshop
Let me begin my brief remarks by thanking the Barbados Employers’ Confederation for extending the invitation to the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Association of Barbados to be represented at today’s workshop. I am also appreciative of the opportunity afforded me to address this Opening Ceremony, which has as its theme, ‘The Role of Labour Standards in Accessing International Markets and Supporting the Caribbean Single Market.’
Today’s workshop provides an appropriate opportunity for enlightened discussion to take place on how the English speaking Caribbean under the umbrella of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), can organize itself to make inroads into the global market place. The labour movement articulates the position that the Labour Standards promoted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which in the main speak to protecting the rights of workers, improving conditions of work and promoting decent work, should be the principle issues which guide your discussions.
Additionally, attention has to focused of the ILO’s conventions that address freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the use of forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment, (under which non-discrimination and equal remuneration is addressed), and child labour, as it relates to a minimum age for employment.
Labour standards, particularly those dealing with freedom of association and collective bargaining are crucial in seeking decent working conditions and social progress in our region. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining is the bedrock on which social dialogue is built; social dialogue cannot exist without respect for freedom of association. Social dialogue is a means and a process to reach solutions to conflicts and problems in the world of work.
It is expected therefore that today’s workshop will endeavour to advance the cause of social dialogue and will cement the importance of the observance of these core labour standards.
These standards are critical to ensuring that there is continuous improvement through the promotion of sustainable and satisfactory conditions of work; conditions that are linked to workers earning a fair wage and being employed in safe and healthy workplaces.
The bottom line is that decent work and fairness at work must be not be compromised.
In addition, a case has to be made for the harmonization of labour laws in this region.
In order for the CSME to be successful trade union rights across the region must be similarly protected. There must be a common set of international labour standards that are ratified by all our countries and that are effectively applied and enforced. This will ensure that workers are not disadvantaged by differing social security policy, laws and regulations. This harmonization will also ensure that workers under national and international law are not denied their rights, discriminated against in employment and hiring, subject to abuse and harassment, or have their dignity trampled upon.
We also make the call that decent work should be included in regional bilateral trade agreements.
It is important therefore to recognize that labour standards drive the need for compliance with workplace codes and benchmarks. Hence, in accepting that the aim of labour standards is to achieve decent work and humane working conditions; companies within our jurisdiction, must be required to comply with all relevant and applicable laws and regulations as a pre-condition for meeting the standards set for entry into international markets.
In closing, I urge you to take note that decent work underlines all labour legislation. It is the promotion of labour standards that will lead to best workplace practices being observed. Businesses can enhance their bottom line, when the rights of workers are protected, as this in turn will enhance the workplace environment and the management–employee relationship.